Welcome to the latest edition of Texas Legislative News for the 88th Texas Legislature. In this weekly feature, we provide information on disability-related issues being considered at the State Capitol. We also include overviews of how lawmakers conduct business and provide details on upcoming TCDD events.
TCDD Public Testimony
Legislative committee hearings are in full swing, and there are currently numerous opportunities to share comments on disability-related bills. Last week, TCDD staff provided public testimony on five separate occasions, on a range of topics.
Tax Exemption for Absorbency Garments
On March 6, TCDD Public Policy Analyst Lauren Gerken submitted written comments to the House Ways & Means Committee regarding House Bill (HB) 300. The bill would exempt certain family care items, including child diapers, from sales and use taxes. Gerken recommended updating HB 300 to include absorbent garments for adults, as these items are just as medically necessary for older children and adults as they are for infants. The change would better address an entire family’s needs when caring for an adult with a disability or an aging parent.
Personal Needs Allowance
TCDD Public Policy Director Scott Daigle provided written comments to the House Human Services Committee on March 7 regarding HB 54, which would increase the personal needs allowance for certain Medicaid recipients who are residents of long-term care facilities. Daigle explained that the allowance, which is currently set at $60 per month, has not been raised since 2007 and has lost significant buying power due to inflation. HB 54 would increase the allowance to at least $85 per month, and help residents purchase personal goods and services not provided by the facilities or Medicaid. Daigle concluded, “For many individuals, this monthly allotment is a vital instrument for retaining their independence, maintaining contacts outside of the facility, and exercising some manner of control over their own lives.” HB 54 was a previous TCDD Bill of the Week.
Ending Unlawful Restraint
On March 8, TCDD Public Policy Analyst Sabrina Gonzalez Saucedo submitted testimony to the Senate Education Committee on Senate Bill (SB) 133, relating to the prohibition of physical restraint and chemical irritants on public school students by school security personnel and peace officers. Her testimony highlighted the case of Zye, a 10-year-old student with disabilities who was duct-taped to a chair, as an example of the alarming rate of inappropriate use of restraint in Texas public schools. Gonzalez Saucedo noted that, according to a report by Disability Rights Texas (PDF), “students with disabilities represent approximately 9.8% of the state’s school population, but they experienced 91% of restraints in Texas’ public schools during the 2018-19 school year.”
Eliminating the R-Word
That same day, Gonzalez Saucedo also submitted written remarks to the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee on HB 446, which aims to remove outdated and derogatory language referring to individuals with intellectual disabilities from state statutes. In her remarks, Gonzalez Saucedo noted the bill would update terminology and bring it in alignment with current medical and societal standards. She stated, “language is a powerful tool that is constantly evolving, and it is crucial to ensure that individuals with intellectual disabilities are not subjected to harmful stereotypes and discrimination.”
Individualized Education Program Team Terminology
Gonzalez Saucedo also provided written testimony at this same hearing on HB 272. This bill proposes another change in terminology in Texas statute, replacing “Admission, Review & Dismissal (ARD) Committee” with “Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team.” She noted that this change would bring Texas into consensus with federal law, along with reducing confusion and better reflecting the collaborative nature of the team. HB 272 was also a recent TCDD Bill of the Week.
If you’d like to give remarks at an upcoming hearing but aren’t sure how to craft your comments, we’ve created a My Testimony Blueprint (PDF) that can be used as a framework. For more legislative advocacy resources, visit our website.
Disability Policy Academy
TCDD will host a Disability Policy Academy at 1 p.m. CT on Wednesday, March 15. The event, titled “Disability Priorities for the 88th Texas Legislature,” will feature representatives from disability-related organizations who will share their top issues for the legislative session. TCDD Public Policy Director Scott Daigle will serve as the event’s moderator. The event will be held via Zoom. Participants must register ahead of time to attend.
Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) service will be provided during the event. If you need other accommodations to participate, please email Koren Vogel or call her at 512-948-2035.
GCPD Webinar on Effective Advocacy
On Monday, Feb. 27, the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) hosted a webinar related to activities at the Texas State Capitol. The event featured expert panelists, including TCDD Public Policy Director Scott Daigle, who answered questions about how Texans with disabilities and their allies can successfully access the state legislative process and engage with their elected representatives about disability topics. A video of the event can be found on the GCPD’s YouTube channel.
Hearings To Watch
The following section includes a sample of the hearings we’re monitoring this week. During these hearings, legislative committees may consider important disability-related bills. You can find live and archived broadcasts of committee hearings on the House and Senate websites.
The House Public Health Committee held a hearing on Monday morning, March 13. The committee discussed the following notable bills:
- HB 299 by Rep. Andrew Murr, relating to creating a voluntary accreditation for recovery housing
- HB 1805 by Rep. Stephanie Klick, relating to the medical use of low-THC cannabis by patients with certain medical conditions
The House Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety held a hearing on Monday afternoon, March 13. The committee discussed the following notable bills:
- HB 195 by Rep. Mary González, relating to provisions and plans by public schools to ensure the safety of individuals with disabilities during a disaster or emergency situation
- HB 473 by Rep. Lacey Hull, relating to parental rights regarding a threat assessment of a student conducted by a public school’s threat assessment and safe and supportive school team
- HB 1157 by Rep. J. M. Lozano, relating to excused absences from public school for certain students to attend mental health care appointments
The House Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, March 14. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:
- HB 729 by Rep. Toni Rose, relating to the statewide intellectual and developmental disability coordinating council
- HB 1008 by Rep. Chris Turner, relating to employment and license suspension of persons who provide care to individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability and who are under investigation for certain misconduct
- HB 1009 by Rep. Chris Turner, relating to criminal history record information reviews of certain individuals providing services to individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability
- HB 1010 by Rep. Chris Turner, relating to the insurable interest of certain persons providing care to individuals with disabilities in the life of those individuals
The House Insurance Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, March 14. The committee will discuss the following notable bill:
- HB 1337 by Rep. Lacey Hull, relating to step therapy protocols required by health benefit plans for coverage of prescription drugs for serious mental illnesses
The House Public Education Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, March 14. The committee will discuss the following notable bill:
- HB 579 by Rep. DeWayne Burns, relating to procedures for the alternative assessment of certain public school students that receive special education services and alternative accountability plans for certain campuses serving students that receive special education services
The House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning, March 15. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:
- HB 266 by Rep. Valoree Swanson, relating to the required filing and use of an affidavit containing the contact information of certain persons in a guardianship proceeding
- HB 530 by Rep. Gene Wu, relating to the terminology used in statute to refer to intellectual disability
- HB 785 by Rep. Valoree Swanson, relating to the delivery of certain notices or other communications in connection with guardianship proceedings
The Senate Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning, March 15. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:
- SB 656 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to an optional health condition or disability designation on a driver’s license or personal identification certificate
- SB 904 by Sen. Drew Springer, relating to presumption for an offense to accessible parking
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning, March 15. The committee will discuss the following notable bill:
- SB 944 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, relating to the commitment order for individuals with intellectual disabilities who are committed to state-supported living centers
The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning, March 15. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:
- SB 113 by Sen. José Menéndez, relating to the provision of on-campus mental health services by a school district and reimbursement under Medicaid for certain services provided to eligible students
- SB 1144 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, relating to enrolling a public school student in the state virtual school network as an alternative to expulsion
- SB 1861 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, relating to the provision of virtual education in public schools and to certain waivers and modifications by the commissioner of education to the method of calculating average daily attendance in an emergency or crisis for purposes of preserving school district funding entitlements under the Foundation School Program during that emergency or crisis; authorizing a fee
Bill Filing Deadline Complete
Monday, March 10, was the 60th day of the legislative session. With some limited exceptions, this milestone marked the deadline for members to file bills. Over 1,000 bills were filed on this day alone, bringing the total bill filings for the session to more than 8,100. To put that in perspective, this appears to be the most bills ever filed in a regular session of the Texas legislature, and over 1,000 more than the session two years ago. Due to the limited amount of time in the session, it is unclear whether having more bills filed will result in more bills being passed into law. Recently filed proposals related to disability issues include:
- HB 3532 by Rep. Carl Sherman Sr., relating to notification requirements for law enforcement agencies regarding a missing child with an intellectual disability or mental illness
- HB 3640 by Rep. Candy Noble, relating to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of a property that is the primary residence of an adult who has an intellectual or developmental disability and is related to the owner of the property within a certain degree by consanguinity
- HB 3748 by Rep. John Bucy III, relating to ensuring access to the right to vote by all eligible voters
- HB 3760 by Rep. John Bucy III, relating to the discipline of students enrolled in certain grade levels or receiving special education services in a public school
- HB 3781 by Rep. Jacey Jetton, relating to special education in public schools, including the special education allotment under the Foundation School Program, an education savings account program for certain children with disabilities, and a grant program to reimburse public schools for the cost of certain employer contributions for retirees of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas employed to teach special education
- HB 3830 by Rep. Janie Lopez, relating to a school district’s duty to notify certain parents or guardians of a program providing students with reading disabilities the ability to borrow audiobooks free of charge
- HB 4164 by Rep. Philip Cortez, relating to the improper use and treatment of an assistance animal or service animal; increasing a criminal penalty
- HB 4245 by Rep. Alma Allen, relating to the revision of the essential knowledge and skills of the public school social studies curricula to include instruction relating to the history of persons with disabilities
- SB 1606 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to evidence and orders regarding intellectual disability or mental condition in certain guardianship proceedings
- SB 1696 by Sen. César Blanco, relating to the provision of certain attendant care services under Medicaid and other public benefits programs administered by the Health and Human Services Commission
- SB 1795 by Sen. José Menéndez, relating to additional requirements for individualized education programs developed for children with autism or other pervasive developmental disorders
- SB 1827 by Sen. Morgan LaMantia, relating to the translation of a student’s individualized education program into Spanish or another language other than English
- SB 1832 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, relating to individuals who may provide services as personal attendants under Medicaid and other public benefits programs administered by the Health and Human Services Commission
TCDD Policy Fellow Spotlight
TCDD provides funding to three grantee organizations to hire and train policy professionals. These grantees give policy fellows the tools and experience they need to join the next generation of disability policy experts. The fellowships last up to two years and generally include one legislative session. This week, we feature TCDD Policy Fellow Dylan Bricker.
How long have you been a TCDD Policy Fellow?
I have been a Fellow for two months now, working with the Epilepsy Foundation of Central & South Texas.
What issues are you tracking this session?
This session, I am tracking issues relating to training for public school personnel to be able to care for students with epilepsy in the case of them having a seizure during school hours. I am also following legislation relating to CBD and THC, which can be used as a therapy to help people with epilepsy control the frequency and severeness of their seizures.
Is there a specific bill that you’re particularly interested in?
A specific bill that I am tracking this session is SB 1506, authored by Senator Bryan Hughes. This bill would require the Texas Education Agency to give parents and physicians the ability to fill out a form that would provide school personnel with the medical and training information necessary to care for a student with epilepsy in the case that the student has a seizure during school hours.
When not working, you can be found…?
When I’m not working, you can find me traveling to compete in professional spikeball tournaments, playing pickleball, or checking out new restaurants and live music in downtown Austin.
Who is your favorite musician or band?
I am a huge fan of country music, especially Morgan Wallen. I also love indie bands like COIN, Young the Giant, and the Band Camino!
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